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Joe Lunardi: ASU in position to earn at-large NCAA Tournament bid

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Arizona State is still afloat with the possibility of earning an at-large bid to make the NCAA Tournament, according to ESPN bracket analyst Joe Lunardi.

Before a 80-62 home win over Stanford on Wednesday night, the Sun Devils were already listed by the bracketologist as one of the last four teams in the postseason field of 68.

Four games remain in the regular season, and Lunardi believes there’s a good chance ASU can solidify a spot in the Big Dance without winning a Pac-12 Tournament game in Las Vegas — if the Sun Devils can pull off three wins before then.

ASU must beat the bottom-dwelling California Golden Bears (5-20) on Sunday and then take two of the three road games at Oregon (Feb. 28), Oregon State (March 3) and Arizona (March 9).

“If they get two of those three on the road, plus Cal, I think they’re going to make the tournament regardless of what happens in Vegas because they’re going to have enough wins and a good-enough league standing,” Lunardi told Bickley & Marotta on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

“My general rule of thumb for these things is for every game they don’t get from that prescription is an extra one they need to get in the conference tournament to make up for it.”

The Cal game marks a land mine for the Sun Devils.

They had a 66th NET rating before beating Stanford, and a loss to one of the worst teams in any conference would cause a significant slide. Back on Feb. 7, Bobby Hurley’s team was 61st in NET before a home loss to Washington State, then rated as the 230th-best team in NET. That set ASU back about 20 spots.

The Sun Devils have since built their resume back up, winning three of four, including handing league-leading Washington its first Pac-12 loss (WSU winning three of its last four certainly helped ASU’s resume, too).

Falling on the road against the Oregon schools or against a down Arizona team over the next two weeks could ding ASU more than it would in most years because of the Pac-12’s down year.

“With three of the last four on the road and all three of the road games being dangerous stops, this story is not over for ASU in spite of their good wins because, again, the conference is what’s really an anchor around their leg at this point in time,” Lunardi said. “It’s hurt their metrics and it could still really hurt their record.

“I think they’ve been typical for a bubble team, and that’s what they are,” Lunardi added. “What would concern me as an Arizona State fan is games that would normally be discounted as acceptable losses, let’s say — a home loss to Utah, for instance, or even Washington State … they’re just way more bad losses in the league this year because of the league, not because of ASU.”

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